Inspectors praise Norfolk firefighters for help during Covid surge

Scenes on the morning after a fire at the former Grampians chicken factory in Attleborough. Pictured

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service has been praised by inspectors for its coronavirus response. - Credit: LAUREN DE BOISE

The way firefighters in Norfolk responded to the coronavirus pandemic, which has included them driving ambulances, has been praised by inspectors.

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service was visited by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services in October, as part of a national inspection programme.

And the report praised the way the Norfolk County Council-run service, had stepped up to the plate as coronavirus spread.

Inspector Zoe Wilkinson, said: "We were impressed with how the service adapted and responded to the pandemic effectively and how it put the health and wellbeing of its people at the forefront of decision making."

More than 70 fire service staff drove ambulances to help East of England Ambulance Service between April and July last year - doing 982 shifts.

They helped move medical supplies and personal protective equipment around Norfolk and helped train student paramedics and community volunteers to drive patient transport vehicles.

The inspection report praised the way the service had maintained response levels to emergencies and adapted the way it keeps  communities safer through fire prevention activities.

And the availability of crewed fire engines was actually better during the pandemic than it was over the same period the year before.

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Between 1 April and 30 June 2020, the service’s average fire engine availability was 92.2pc  compared with 83.4pc during the same period in 2019.

That was because staff were relocated and more on-call firefighters were available due to furlough or redundancy from their main employment.

Stuart Ruff, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service's chief fire officer. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Stuart Ruff, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service's chief fire officer. Pic: Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Chief fire officer Stuart Ruff said: "This awful pandemic has seen loss of life and a great deal of suffering.

"In these circumstances, we are proud that the report findings highlight the great work being done by our team across the county to protect Norfolk, and the public should feel confident in our abilities during this pandemic."

In response to a call for mutual aid, firefighters this week started supporting Norfolk’s hospitals by carrying out Covid-19 swab testing and helping staff fit specialist face masks.

Further staff are due to start assisting at mass vaccination centres across Norfolk, in the coming days.